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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Bourn Apprehension

Kyle Drenon

Will someone please sign Michael Bourn?

He’s 30-years-old.  Is arguably the best leadoff man in baseball.  Enjoys taking walks to first, collecting free bases, and is always working on improving his WAR (which was 13th best in the league last year).  He is looking for a long-term commitment.

Bourn is still on the market for two reasons.  The length of his contract demands and the first round compensation for his Type A free agent status. 

Five years at $15MM per season is reportedly what Boras and Co. are asking for at the moment.  The first three years of that proposal probably isn’t what is scaring off GMs.  It’s the later years of the deal.  Bourn’s game is based on speed, a skill that we all know diminishes with time.  Teams are wary of paying a 34-year-old leadoff man who can’t run anymore.  But, that is the nature of the beast in free agency.

Fellow centerfielder Vernon Wells may not have done Bourn any favors when he signed his back-loaded 7 year $126MM deal in ’06.  Wells’ play over the past few seasons has diminished faster than the acting career of the other Vernon Wells.  Only the upper crust of the league gets sweet back-end deals like that anymore.  Bourn may not be worth Vernon Wells money, but he’s not worth Vernon Wells money either. 

The Other Vernon Wells

So, how much is he worth? 

Clearly no team wants to commit for 5 years, but Boras may not be too far off with the dollar amount.  37-year-old Torii Hunter just inked a 2-year $26MM deal in MoTown and Nick Swisher penned a 4 year $56MM accord in Cleveland.  $13MM and $14MM per year, respectively.  Bourn’s numbers exceed both Hunter’s and Swisher’s in almost every category, save power.  Add stellar defense to that and you’ve got the next number in the pattern.

The recent success of pitchers selected near the top of the amateur draft is another reason Bourn is still out of work.  His type A free agent status means whomever signs him is required to surrender the first pick it has in the draft.  GMs are less keen than ever to gamble away a ticket to the next Stephen Strasburg

Since 2009, Strasburg has been joined by plenty of quality pitchers in the first round.  Shelby Miller, Mike Minor, Trevor Bauer, Drew Storen and Chris Sale have all graduated to the Show already.  Then there’s the minor leaguers vying for the top spot on Keith Law’s list.  Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, and Dylan Bundy are being touted as future aces.  Top 15 draft picks are being valued higher and higher, maybe too high in this case.  For every success story there are a dozen failures in the draft.  Just ask Todd Van Poppel

Bourn is a proven commodity, and he’s still got plenty left in the tank (unlike either of the Vernon Wells).  Losing a low percentage chance to find the next great ace to sign one of the game’s best tablesetters is a risk worth taking. 

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